OHE plans mental health day

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September 28, 2010

1:15 AM

October: the infamous month of midterms, essays, weeks of insanity followed by suspicious days of calm and long hours in Earl Gregg Swem Library. It is a time when, for many, stress conquers all. Luckily, some organizations on campus are working together to help students remember to take care of themselves mentally, and to offer useful tips on combating stress.

The Office of Health Education has teamed up with Health Outreach Peer Educators and the Counseling Center to organize a Mental Health Screening. It will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 29 in the Sadler Center, Chesapeake B and C from 11 a.m. to1 p.m., and then 4 to 5 p.m. Students will get a chance to come in and talk to counselors face-to-face, and participate in one of the many de-stressing activities featured.

“People will come out, fill out a quick screening form that will check for health issues like depression, and then get a chance to talk to the counselors,” Danielle Noriega ’13, an intern for the Office of Health Education, said.

An important aspect of this event is the counselors’ accessibility. Students will be able to speak to them without the added pressure of scheduling an additional or extra appointment.

“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable making an appointment with [counselors], so we’re hoping that having them in a central place like Sadler will make it easier,” Noriega said.

Not only will participants be able to speak to counselors if they are worried about their mental health, but anyone interested in remaining healthy in every aspect of their lives will find the screening useful.

“We’re advertising it as ‘have you had your check-up,’ because we want it to feel like a normal thing you would do, like you would go to a dentist or a doctor, and you’re just checking into you mental health like any other help,” Grace McGlade ’11, vice president of the H.O.P.E. mental health branch, said.

Participants will initially fill out a form that screens for mental illness, which will then be scored. While they wait for a score, they will have the opportunity to learn important techniques to help them deal with their stress level, which can be particularly important as midterm season approaches.

“The stress exercises are important because if you get stressed out during a test, an exam, or studying at Swem, you have something to fall back on,” Christina Rotondo ’13, an intern for the office of Health Education, said. “You can just stay seated, remember what you learned, and calm yourself down without removing yourself from the room.”

The event will feature a relaxation booth, a de-stressing station with arts and crafts and a massage therapist who will be doing free one-minute massages. There will also be people there to go over useful breathing exercises, some fun stretches and instant relaxers.

“There will be staff members from the [Student] Rec[reation] Center [and] fitness instructors, who will be giving fitness tips if anyone wants them,” McGlade said. “And then there’ll be a table for resources, with information about mental illness, and other wellness tips.”

After the screening sheet is scored, participants will be called back to a private room where they will go over their results with a counselor.

“You’ll be able to see what might be out of balance,” McGlade said. “But, we don’t want people to be scared, or think that if they go then there’s something wrong.”

The screening is meant to have universal features, and should benefit any student who wishes to participate, whether or not they think they may have a mental health issue. It is meant to be a reminder, before midterm season starts, that nobody should forget to take care of themselves emotionally and mentally.

“This really is for everyone, regardless of how you’re doing,” Rotondo said. “If you feel like you’re doing fine, then this is simply to reconfirm that.”

The goal of the event is to give students an opportunity to talk face-to-face with a counselor in a relaxed environment. The organizers are hoping that with that added contact, students will feel more comfortable speaking to a counselor later on, when they may really need the help.

“We want to get rid of the whole stigma that surrounds mental health,” Noriega said. “We want to be able to show people who feel like they may have depression or some other kind of mental illness that it’s okay to come out. We just want them to come and get the help they might need.”

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